Mountain biking has appeal to an older generation

  • Vanessa Brown picked up mountain biking about four years ago and find the community of riders "one of the dearest, most inclusive groups of people I know." (Jerry Halstead photograph)

Special to the Valley News
Published: 6/8/2019 6:19:41 PM

I’ve been mountain biking on and off for the last 25 years, really getting back into it in my 50s. When I turned 54, I finally bought a modern mountain bike, telling my wife, “Now that I’m older, this is probably the last one.”

Fortunately she hasn’t held me to that. There have been a few new ones over the last five years, including fat bikes for winter.

Over that time, I’ve met a surprising number of older mountain bikers from all walks of life. Most of them also fat bike in the winter, pitch in with trail work and are members of the Upper Valley Mountain Bike Association. None have expressed plans to give mountain biking up any time soon.

Let’s check in with a sampling of those over-50 mountain bikers from around the Upper Valley:

■Julie Tilden is 74 (going on 39) and has been mountain biking for about 30 years. She plans to bike as long as she’s physically and mentally able. Favorite trails are Hurricane (Hartford Town Forest), Kingdom Trails in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, the Landmark/Boston Lot in Lebanon and in Haverhill. One bit of advice: “Get out there and ride and, if possible, try night riding with lights and friends.”

■Clayton Morlock, a 62-year-old engineer from Lebanon, has been mountain biking since the 1980s. Fun fact: If you’ve ridden Landmark/Boston Lot, you’ve been on trails that Clayton built. What’s the allure of mountain biking? “Being in the woods, feeling like you are on a roller coaster, yet burning calories with the element of skill needed. Trees don’t move, unlike cars, if you are a roadie.”

■Vanessa Brown is a program manager who enjoys trail running and started mountain biking in her mid-50s, four years ago. “The riding community is one of the dearest, most inclusive groups of people I know,” she says. “Kids, old ladies, whatever, everyone is welcome, and a smile is on most every face.”

■Jill Cutting, a retired physical therapist, started mountain biking in the 1990s and, at 64, rides whenever she can. She also skis, snowshoes, hikes and participates in other outdoor activities. “I’ve always said that I will mountain bike until I drop,” she says. “Whoever is with me at the time will have to haul me out of the woods.”

■Bill Brown hits 70 this fall and works real estate sales in White River Junction. He’s been mountain biking for 25 years, riding three times a week. “Things I like about mountain biking are being in the woods, fresh air (even in winter), and seeing wildlife,” he says. “It’s a spiritual experience for me.”

■Jayne Stone started mountain biking four years ago when she was 61, noting, “You’re never too old to try something new.” She gets out three times a week to ride in Landmark/Boston Lot, French’s Ledges and Hurricane. She also hikes, golfs, scuba dives, snowshoes and skis.

■Norm Berman is a physician from Meriden who’s been mountain biking since the mid-1980s. He bikes four days a week, including a Wednesday-night group ride that’s been meeting for 25 years, most of riders being over age 60. Advice for younger riders? “Keep at it, and you might get as fast as the old guys.”

■Alan Garber, a 62-year-old critical care doctor from Lebanon, bikes daily and started mountain biking 20 years ago. His favorite biking is done at French’s Ledges with his three Labradors, since it’s super dog-friendly.

■Natalie Starr, from West Windsor, a principal at DSM Environment, is in her mid-50s and started mountain biking more than 30 years ago. She rides at Mount Ascutney and the nearby trail systems one to two times a week. Advice for others: “Don’t stop riding, and get your friends to join you — it’s good for the soul and your health and, in many ways, a lot safer than riding on the roads.”

■Stan Spencer, 58, is retired, bikes almost daily and is active in trail building. “The older bikers are much more interested in all skills/aspects in biking,” he says. “We come from an era where the bikes were much more equal and the rider made the difference.”

Not everyone has been mountain biking for decades. I regularly hear of folks borrowing or renting a bike just to see what it’s about and then going on to become a regular, even stepping up to help out on the trails. Stop by your local bike shop: They often rent bikes, have maps, know the trail types and can help get you started.

French’s Ledges in Meriden is a good place to start your journey into mountain biking, with plenty of easy trails, plus the option of more technical single track when you’re feeling adventurous. One of the Upper Valley favorites, the Landmark/Boston Lot trails, also has some beginner/intermediate trails.

Jerry Halstead is the vice chairman of the UVMBA. Visit www.uvmba.org or the group’s Instagram or Facebook pages to learn more.




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